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Which professional Mac desktop: iMac and Mac Pro compared

Martyn Casserly | April 8, 2016
Sometimes you need the power of a Mac desktop.

The slim housing of the iMac gives it as small a footprint as possible for a device bearing a 27-inch screen, and in use the machine ran nearly silently even when being pushed to the limit. The Mac Pro is equally compact, bearing more resemblance to a pedal bin than a powerhouse computer.

That small, cylindrical frame does still manage to pack a copious amount of ports, which include 6x Thunderbolt 2, 4x USB 3.0, 2x Gigabit Ethernet, and a HDMI 1.4, plus 2x 3.5mm mini jack outputs, one of which is a combined stereo analogue line-out with Toslink digital audio output. The iMac sports a healthy, if slightly smaller, amount of options, with 4x USB 3.0, 2x Thunderbolt 2, 1x Gigabit Ethernet, a 3.5mm headphone/speaker jack, and an SDXC card reader.

One major difference between the computers is that the Mac Pro features a number of options that are surprisingly quick to access and upgrade. Removing the outer shell is a simple operation involving pressing a button and then sliding it off. Once inside you can remove the RAM, which is on the outside of the chassis and held by a couple of clips and the flash-storage is accessed by removing a solitary, standard Phillips screw.

The GPUs and even the CPU itself can also be changed by the user, although you'd need a steady hand and steely nerve to venture into the heart of a machine this expensive. In a teardown on iFixit, the always excellent repair site, the Mac Pro scored 8 out of 10 for reparability, which is one of the highest scores we've seen for an Apple product.

Contrast this with the 5 out of 10 that the iMac with 5K Retina display marked up, and you see how the modular nature of the Pro makes it a great choice for those who like to save money and upgrade machines themselves. This should also prolong the life of the device, as swapping out faulty parts in a few years' time can be done by the user.

Both machines have been out for a little while now, and rumours are already spreading about updates coming this year. On the Mac Pro, the Xeon E5 V3 'Grantley' chips now available and sure to replace the V2 'Romley' versions currently fitted in the workstation machines.

iMac vs Mac Pro: Buying advice

If you're someone who works with highly demanding 3D graphics rendering software, or create and edit lots of effects-heavy video, then the Mac Pro is an obvious choice because of its raw power capabilities. It really is a very impressive machine that looks fantastic, while coming equipped with enough grunt to take on advanced tasks without fear.


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